Looking to get back in the win column as the final stretch of the regular season begins, Tennessee will be back in action at home on Saturday as it welcomes South Carolina to Neyland Stadium.
Following a tough defeat at the hands of top-ranked Alabama, the Vols must now win four of their final five games if they wish to become bowl eligible for the first time under Jeremy Pruitt.
Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp has yet to lose a game to Tennessee since taking over the Gamecocks in 2016, a trend that UT hopes to reverse.
Tennessee had a chance to upset South Carolina last year before blowing a 21-9 third quarter lead and ultimately falling 27-24 at Williams Brice Stadium.
Here are four bold predictions for Saturday’s showdown:
Gamecocks will fail to reach 100 rushing yards
South Carolina boasts the nation’s 36th-ranked rushing attack, tallying 197 yards on the ground on average.
Senior Rico Dowdle ranks 15th on the Gamecocks’ all-time rushing list with 2,126 yards on 400 total carries. He was also key in last year’s matchup, rushing for 140 yards and a score.
Fortunately for the Vols, he’ll be unavailable on Saturday as he deals with a knee injury.
After struggling to start the season, Tennessee defense has come to life over the past two games, particularly on the ground.
When Mississippi State came to town two weeks ago, the Vols held the SEC’s leading rusher in Kylin Hill to just 12 yards. Alabama May have gotten going in the second half, but it wasn’t for a. lack of effort on UT’s part.
With desperation kicking in, Tennessee should have no problem carrying over that effort in front of its home crowd, especially with South Carolina missing it’s top runner.
Shrout will receive a large number of reps
Sophomore quarterback J.T. Shrout got his first true taste of game action in Tuscaloosa a week ago. He’ll get a larger helping of that on Saturday.
It’s no secret that Jarrett Guarantano hasn’t lived up to expectations, but last week may have been the “nail in the coffin” for the redshirt junior when he went against the coaching staff’s play call and fumbled the game away.
He’ll likely get the start after Brian Maurer was unable to practice all week, but don’t be surprised to see no. 12 replace him.
A three-star recruit from Santa Clarita, California, Shrout passed for 3,064 yards and 27 touchdowns during his senior season at Hart High School.
Pruitt mentioned that Shrout would receive playing time earlier on Wednesday, but no specific plan was provided.
Given the way that the season has unfolded for Guarantano, it’s safe to say we’ll see another individual under center sooner than later.
Vols’ defense records five sacks
Tennessee‘a defense doesn’t typically get to the opposing quarterback, but when it does, it wreaks havoc.
Just ask Mississippi State.
The Vols have recorded just 17 total sacks on the season but when push has come to shove, they’ve typically responded. Against Alabama, UT held the high-powered Crimson Tide to season lows in points (35), passing yards (233) and total yards (373).
It marked the lowest yardage output for a Nick Saban-coached team since Nov. 10, 2018 against Mississippi State’s then third-ranked defense.
With Darrell Taylor in the midst of a prolific stretch and Henry To’o To’o back to man the linebacker core, the Vols will have no issue putting pressure on the opposing quarterback .
In certain situations, desperation is necessary. Tennessee has reached that point.
Muschamp’s streak comes to an end
All records are made to be broken and all streaks are meant to end at some point. South Carolina’s recent domination over Tennessee has reached that point.
The Gamecocks may be the better team on paper, but games have hardly been won on talent alone, particularly in the SEC.
There’s no doubt that the Vols have struggled to live up to expectations, but even after their disastrous downfall early in the season, UT’s postseason chances still have a pulse.
With three of their final five games being played at home, the Vols would certainly be doing themselves a favor if they’re able to take advantage of that home field advantage.
Prediction: Tennessee 28, South Carolina 21